A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 34 – Ghostbusters II

Ghostbusters II – April 3, 2010

Okay, let me say a word or two about my childhood and movies. I mentioned yesterday that I didn’t really get to see movies in the theater as a kid. I can count on my fingers the number of times I set foot in a movie theater before high school. Before 8th grade I could do it on one hand. And every single one of those trips was during a sleepover or birthday party with a family not my own. On one hand, my parents were a little protective of me when I was little. I was only allowed to watch PBS for years. On the other, I think my parents really didn’t want to deal with kids in a movie theater. I don’t really blame them. Anyhow, I saw this movie in the theater (friend’s birthday sleepover), so it holds a special place in my heart. So let me say right off, I like this movie. It might not be as great as the first, but I like it. I’ll stop on it while I’m flipping channels and I’ll enjoy it every time.

That being said, it definitely has some things I’m not crazy about and I think most of them stem from the first movie’s success and the subsequent inflation of a lot of aspects. People thought Louis was funny as a clumsy nebbish? Let’s make him clumsier and more ineffectual! People liked the music? Let’s have the Ghostbusters themselves play it on a boom box! People liked the green blob? Sure, toss him in too. They can keep him around as a pet! It’s a sequel that’s just a little too aware of the success of its source and it can grate a little. Louis was funny in the first movie as a klutz with a thing for Dana, but in the second one he’s turned into a totally incompetent running gag. It’s a small step, but it’s in the wrong direction. And that’s sort of how a lot of little things play, which is frustrating.

On the other hand, there are some things I really like in this movie. First off, the petty villain who puts roadblocks in the way of the heroes doing what needs doing? A bureaucrat! But not really one who has any ulterior motive, which is a lot better than trying to give a reason like Peck in the first movie. A petty bureaucrat doesn’t need a reason to be a jackass! Just have him be a jackass. I love what the characters are doing at the outset of the movie, with Egon doing research that seems pointless at first but then turns out to have a bearing on the entire movie, Ray running an occult bookstore, Peter with his ridiculous television show and damn, they don’t really show you what Winston’s up to. Aside from singing at birthday parties with Ray. Anyhow, I think it sets itself up nice. And I love the slime. I like that the movie isn’t a cookie-cutter rehash of the exact plot from before but with a different evil god or whatever. It’s got the haunted painting and the slime river and the walking Statue of Liberty. Fun stuff that takes cues from the first movie (giant thing walking through New York City, something supernatural targeting Dana, the guys going up against huge odds without really knowing if it will work, etc.) without coming off exactly the same.

And then there’s Peter MacNicol’s Janosz, who is so over-the-top and ridiculous. He offsets the ominous villain and brings a great comedic note that isn’t just slapstick. His timing and delivery is one of my favorite things about the movie, with particular love for the “Why am I drippings with goo?” line. Sadly, the movie isn’t quite as quotable as the first one, but that line and a couple of others (like Peter’s “all new cheap moves” line) are good enough. Like I said, I like the movie. It’s not as good as the first and it’s far too self-aware but I like it anyhow. It might just be nostalgia talking, but I like it.

April 3, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment

Ghostbusters II

March 3, 2010

Ghostbusters 2

Here’s the problem with sequels.  They so rarely live up to the original.  I think that’s my whole review right there.  The rest is just noise.

There are some very odd choices in this sequel.  In the commentary for the fist movie Harold Ramis points out that Egon never smiles.  It was a performance choice on his part that makes Egon the cerebral straight man.  But in this movie he has this sort of sardonic smirk.  It makes him come across as a smug know-it-all.  Then there’s the timelessness of the first movie which I mentioned in my review yesterday.  Early in the movie Bill Murray’s character Peter Venkman has a cheap cable access show and one of his guests says that the world is going to end on the coming New Years Eve.  Pete says “Why not just say that the world is going to end in 1992 or even better 1994?”  Which dates the movie right there.

I also miss the doomed romance between the clueless Igon and the ever hopeful Janine.  In this movie she’s paired off with the clueless Louis who was comic relief in the first movie.  And her wardrobe and hair are truly bizarre!  (Poor Annie Potts.)

And the ghosts – they’re more cartoonish and comic than in the first movie.  The librarian ghost in the first movie was actually scary.  Even the Staypuft Marshmallow man is frightening when he’s angry and on fire.  The ghosts in this movie are just silly caricatures.  I know the movie is a comedy, but really there’s a lack of tension because the ghostbusters are never in any kind of danger.

Having said that, however, I should add that even though he’s mostly there for the laughs the primary bad-guy in this movie is the best part of it.  Peter MacNicol’s totally over-the-top and ridiculous as Janosz, the museum curator and general crazy person who stalks and menaces Sigourney Weaver’s Dana and her baby.  I love just about every line he has and he steals every scene.  He reminds me a lot of John Lithgow’s John Whorfin character from Buckaroo Banzai.  Great stuff.  No matter what else Peter may do for us he will always be “drippings vit goo.”  (Love him as “X The Eliminator” in Harvey Birdman though.)

And ugh the soundtrack!  Bleach!  All the pop/rap garbage – it doesn’t have the spirit or the heart of the eighties pop from the first movie.

I can see what this movie is trying to do.  The overarching theme that the anger and misery of New York has manifested as an evil slime that’s bringing about the end of the world is kind of cool.  It’s just… not well done.  There are some fun lines and some funny bits, but it never quite gels.  (I’ve never bought the notion that animating the statue of liberty and having it tromp through the streets of New York would engender any kind of good will in the city’s residents.)

If you want to see a truly fun and great Ghostbusters sequel go play the Ghostbusters game that came out last year.  Preferably the Wii version… it’s just so cool to finally be able to use a proton pack to capture ghosts like I dreamed about way back in 1984.

April 3, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , | 1 Comment